Welcome to the first in a new series of blog posts where I answer your questions about life, love, and self publishing. All names are changed to protect the innocent.
Send your questions to me on Twitter @damiengwalter using hashtag #DearDamo
I’ve always wanted to be a BESTSELLING writer! So, a few weeks ago I sat down and wrote a bestselling novel in a genre I know to be super popular…SPACE OPERA! My book it has space ships, space battles, space marines and even space cadets! My book is on Kindle now…but it isn’t bestselling! This surprises me because space opera novels are huge bestsellers! I also went the extra distance and made my space opera novel an EPIC space opera cover! It’s of a space ship that looks like that cool one from Aliens and it’s in orbit above a gas giant planet which is all swirly colours…how could that not stand out! What’s wrong with people?!
I’m glad you’re having fun being a bestselling author, even if the bestselling part hasn’t shown up yet! That’s the spirit!
However…what you describe here is a common problem among many self published authors. We tend to assume that if something is successful, other things like it will also be successful. To an extent, this is true. Some people like to read within one genre, and big bestsellers can have a “halo effect”, as readers look for another hit of a story that gripped them. BUT, like a goth kid who wants to be unique but ends up one of thousands wearing identikit black eyeliner and DM boots, copying popular trends like “space opera” actually has the opposite effect. Tens of thousands of other people had exactly the same idea, and their books also have space marines and a space ship orbiting a gas giant on the cover.
So what’s the answer? Great writers have an instinct for the kinds of stories that will grab an audiences attention, stories that are both comfortingly familiar and indescribably new and different. Harry Potter wasn’t the first story about a kid who goes to magic school, but J K Rowling twisted archetypal elements and blended genres to create something truly new. Technology opens up surprising & powerful ways of analysing data about successful stories, with platforms like K-Lytics offering detailed reports into the “hot niche” sub-genres that are coming into popularity.
Always, always, always write what you are passionate about. But once it’s written, you can use research and analytics to find the best niche genres to market your work, and then create a cover design that really stands out for that audience.
Hope that helps!
Peace & love!
I’ve spent a good part of this evening reading an e-book on my iPhone. Which, since getting the new iPhone 4 with the excellent high definition Retina display, has become a regular activity. Combined with the iBooks and Kindle apps, the iPhone is a great e-reader, and has displaced my Sony Pocket, primarily because it is so simple to get books on the iPhone and I always have it with me. The size of the screen is not to everyones tastes, but the larger iPad and other readers solve that issue. And sooner rather than later there will be an e-reader almost identical to paper books. Whatever your reading tastes, there will be an e-reader to suit.
But its not because of technology that e-books are wining, although it helps. Its because of how e-books are changing my relationship with the writers I want to read.
The other thing I have done this evening (other than meet some friends for a drink) is enjoy some social networking. Facebook and Twitter between them are now a regular evening activity, as they are for hundreds of millions of people. I don’t think I need to argue the case for social networks as a major revolution in our cultural lives, as important in the 21st Century as television was in the 20th. Social networks are a different experience for their many different users. If you like music or fashion, your social network will be full of those things. If you like reading, its likely your social network will include many writers. Certainly mine includes hundreds of writers whose work I love in one way or another.
And more than anything else, its my social network that is driving my reading choices now. The writers whose books and stories I’m reading are also the ones I’m following in the blogosphere, or chatting with on Twitter or Facebook. These social mediums are great for writers, who are perfectly adapted for what is largely a text driven social media world. In social media, writers are able to build a direct relationship with the niche audiences who love their work. Its a model that has been evolving alongside the evolving internet. But it seems to me that e-books have now provided the last piece of the puzzle.
By their nature, social networks are very transitory. They consist of many light-weight relationships, that change quickly over time. If I become interested in a writer through their social network, it does not follow I will go and buy their book in a shop, or even order it online. But there is a good chance I will download a sample chapter from the Kindle store or iBooks. And if the book catches me then, I will definitely buy it. E-books allow a writers social network to directly feed readers towards their books, in a way that paper books really do not. As social networks become ever more central to the work of writers, e-books are becoming the primary way writers get their work to readers.
Ate the most amazing beef stew (with mustard mash and kale) at The Pub this evening. Their new chef previously cooked for Gordon Ramsay in London, and oh my good god can the lad cook. A well cooked pub meal on a cold December night is one of the most comforting things I can imagine. If you are anywhere near New Walk in Leicester any evening soon then go in and see for yourself.
I’ve been working on the upcoming Writing Industries Conference today, and am happy to say we have already sold out of early bird tickets. I think it’s possible we might sell out of full price tickets before we even announce the programme, so if you are planning to come then get one soon.
Now for two hours work on The Hundredth Master of Ninja Assassin. I want this finished this week. As previously stated you can help me achieve this goal with a well timed nag. Go on, you know you want to.
Kat Howard wonders what to read next?
Are Amazon selling 100,000 Kindles a week? Even if they are then the there might be some light at the end of the tunnel for the publishing industry.
Or rather not. Today over at the Guardian, Jack Schofield asks if the Kindle ebook reader is becoming Amazon’s IPod. Schofield argues that it may be newspapers, not books, that lauch the e-reader revolution and draw the Kindle up to IPod status. But as Schofield himself points out, its more likely that e-books will proceed down the path they have already established, on general purpose portable media devices – PDA’s, smartphones, and even IPods themselves – rather than dedicated readers like the Kindle.
After some consideration, I’m no longer expecting an ebook or ereader revolution. Ebooks will slowly grow in popularity as a format, and while there may be a few minor or even major casualties in the print sector, publishers will reach the common sense realisation that it is to their benefit to provide their content in as many formats as they possibly can. The idea that a brand like the Guardian exists purely in print, or even on the web, is already becoming more and more difficult to sustain. Brands, be they national newspapers or bestselling authors, are going to make their work available in every format. I’ll be very surprised if major novels aren’t simultaneously released as print, ebook, audio, blog-serialsation and the rest within the next few years. And in coming years the number of possible formats will multiply massively, until the central function of a publisher will be making contet available through them all.
Of course, the ugly head or Digital Rights Management and Intellectual Property is the boggie man in the corner of my utopian vision. I wonder how long it can be maintained, or will it even manage to cripple the media entirely as it currently threatening?
Amazon released its new Kindle e-book reader today. Techie types have been predicting the rise of the e-book for decades. Is it finally about to happen?
Either way, its the publishers who should be scared of e-books. And writers who stand to benefit. If a healthy online market place for e-books emerges, it really calls into question what role publishers will play. Publishers, like the major music labels and and film companies, exist only because they have a monopoly on distribution. Internet distribution undermines that monopoly. Over time it will completely destroy it. If I am a happy digital book reader, why would I bother paying the salary of umpteen pointless publishing executives when I can go directly to an authors website and get the same book for a quarter of the price, whilst knowing the author is receiving four times as much as the measly publishers royalty?
One consequence of e-books will be to make almost extinct the the mega-authors of our era. Yes, you’ll still get the occasional Stephen King but the digital marketplace will be much more geared towards serving a multiplicity of niche markets, and will produce a larger number of authors making a living rather than growing rich. Knowing your niche and building a relationship with your readership will be more important than ever. In some ways we are returning to the pre-mass media model of cultural consumption where every village had its own storytellers, musicians and theatre. Of course our villages are not geographically limited, but related instead by shared values and interest. But once again those communities will need artists to articulate their identity. That seems like an exciting prospect to me.